Bleahene blasts Galway to U-21 glory in thrilling provincial final

Galway defender Mark Hughes on the ball during the Leinster Under 21 hurling final in Portlaoise on Wednesday evening. Photo: Joe Keane.
Galway defender Mark Hughes on the ball during the Leinster Under 21 hurling final in Portlaoise on Wednesday evening. Photo: Joe Keane.

Galway 4-21

Wexford 2-26

(After Extra-Time)

SLIEVE Bloom mountain was not the only stretch on fire last Wednesday evening. For not far from its foothills, in the swarth of O’Moore Park, Portlaoise, an inferno of a different sort blazed.

An epic encounter that raged from the first minute to injury-time of extra-time, this U21 Leinster hurling championship decider was a game that will live long in the memory of those lucky to witness it – be it at the venue or on TG4.

When the smoke cleared, and the dust settled, it was Galway who were crowned 2018 Leinster U-21 hurling champions compliments of an 81st minute goal from Ahascragh/Fohenagh’s Sean Bleahene.

By this time, Galway had trailed by two points, after the outstanding Rory O’Connor shot what many believed was the score that sealed the victory for Wexford heading into injury-time.

However, before Laois referee John O’Brien could put the whistle in his mouth to blow full-time, Eanna Murphy had rifled out a short puckout to corner-back Ian O’Shea and the Athenry man executed a telling delivery into the heart of the Wexford defence.

Waiting to greet it was Bleahene, who had been withdrawn on 42 minutes but was bravely reintroduced by management for these final moments, and, swivelling like a ballerina, he made the room to drive his effort to the back of the Wexford net.

It was an epic conclusion to an epic game – a contest where both sides left everything they had out on the field. From a Galway perspective, young heroes have certainly emerged – the likes of captain Fintan Burke, goalkeeper Murphy, Jack Fitzpatrick, Jack Grealish, Monaghan, Sean Loftus, Brian Concannon, Cianan Fahy, Evan Niland, Kevin Cooney and Bleahene.

Over the course of the 80 minutes plus though, contributions were made right across the field and, in this respect, the substitutions also worked a treat. Patrick Foley, a midfield dynamo, added another layer to Galway’s game while Conor Caulfield must be complimented for his injury-time point in normal time.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.